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Iowa rain hands pole to Dixon

Scott Dixon signs autographs at IowaScott Dixon will start from pole position for the IRL IndyCar Series race at Iowa after rain forced the cancellation of qualifying.

Poor weather had already caused yesterday's test to be truncated, and although practice and the Indy Lights support race were successfully completed on a dry track today, a thunderstorm then struck after two of the 24 competitors had completed their four-lap qualifying runs.

That ultimately led to the session being abandoned completely, with the grid to be formed based on entrants' championship positions.

This will be a boost for points leader Dixon and his Ganassi team, as the 2003 champion had struggled for speed so far in the Iowa weekend, and was only 12th fastest in final practice, but will now start from pole for the fifth time in eight races this year.

Penske's Helio Castroneves will join Dixon on the front row, ahead of Dan Wheldon (Ganassi) and Tony Kanaan (Andretti Green).

Both Dixon and Castroneves indicated they might have had trouble getting to the front row without the assist from the weather.

"Our car was decent in race set-up, but when we put new tyres on it, it didn't speed up much," said Dixon, who has pledged to donate any prize money from the race to the Iowa flood relief effort.

"Today would have been tough to qualify, but it also would have been fun for the drivers. It would have been quite interesting, but it would have been tough for us to get on pole."

Castroneves had a run at qualifying before the rain began but was not content with his car's handling.

"I actually saw some raindrops, but I told myself, 'No, that's dry,'" Castroneves said. "It's one of those situations where you don't want to be thinking anything bad, especially when it's so tough to stay flat around here."

Last year's inaugural IndyCar race at the 7/8-mile oval was a crash-filled affair, and Dixon suspects that this weekend could see more of the same.

"I don't think much of that is going to change, but hopefully it does," Dixon said. "There are a lot of competent drivers out there. Last year it was easy to get frustrated because you couldn't get a run on anybody. This year, the track is a little older and has a little less grip.

"It's going to be tough for people to stay flat all the way around the place for a 65 or 70-lap stint, so it's going to be easier to pass people. But then when you add another 10 cars to what we had here last year, and you're going to have some impatient people."

But Castroneves feels the race will be markedly better than last year.

"It's hard to go flat here compared with last year," he said. "We can, but it's tougher. I do feel tomorrow is going to be a good show."

He believes he will definitely have a competitive package for the race.

"All the practice we did yesterday and today, from my perspective, was good for my car," Castroneves said. "Under these conditions, we know what to do. Both Penske cars are fast."

Practice pace-setters Ryan Briscoe (Penske) and Hideki Mutoh (Andretti Green) will take the start from fifth and seventh respectively, split by AGR's Danica Patrick.

With Bruno Junqueira's Dale Coyne Racing entry and Marty Roth's car having both severely damaged in morning practice crashes, 24 drivers are now set to compete on Sunday afternoon.

"I'm okay, but unfortunately the car's not okay," Junqueira said. "It's very damaged. The left rear wishbone broke, which is what made me spin. Hopefully we can get everything together for Richmond."

Provisional starting order:

Pos  Driver             Team
 1.  Scott Dixon        Ganassi
 2.  Helio Castroneves  Penske
 3.  Dan Wheldon        Ganassi
 4.  Tony Kanaan        Andretti Green
 5.  Ryan Briscoe       Penske
 6.  Danica Patrick     Andretti Green
 7.  Hideki Mutoh       Andretti Green
 8.  Marco Andretti     Andretti Green
 9.  Ed Carpenter       Vision
10.  Oriol Servia       KV
11.  Will Power         KV
12.  Vitor Meira        Panther
13.  EJ Viso            HVM
14.  Ryan Hunter-Reay   Rahal Letterman
15.  Buddy Rice         Dreyer & Reinbold
16.  Graham Rahal       Newman/Haas/Lanigan
17.  Enrique Bernoldi   Conquest
18.  AJ Foyt IV         Vision
19.  Darren Manning     Foyt
20.  Justin Wilson      Newman/Haas/Lanigan
21.  Jaime Camara       Conquest
22.  Milka Duno         Dreyer & Reinbold
23.  John Andretti      Roth
24.  Mario Moraes	Dale Coyne

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